Orbiter X [Britian Radio science fiction] BBC OTR 1959


The fictional Commomwealth Space Project (CSP),[2] based in Woomera, South Australia, is working to build a space station orbiting a thousand miles above the Earth's surface:[2] Orbiter X. Planned to be a refuelling station for further space exploration, along with laboratories and other services,[2] the CSP has launched the various components for the space station into orbit. But before construction can begin, the first assembly ship, Orbiter 1, is seemingly attacked and loses contact with CSP Control. A second ship, Orbiter 2, piloted by Captain Bob Britton (John Carson), sent to rescue the first crew finds Orbiter 1 deserted and the spacecraft's log missing. Orbiter 2 is also attacked by a UFO and Flight Engineer 'Hicky' (Barrie Gosney) seriously injured. With their spacecraft crippled, the crew have no alternative but to abandon ship and place themselves at the mercy of their attackers. Once aboard the UFO, they meet Commander Gelbin (Arthur Lawrence), the deputy leader of the Unity organisation: a group of technocrats who plan to use Orbiter X themselves and create a New World Order.


Writing in the Radio Times, the programme's creator said:[2]

With the arrival of the Russian moon probe in the lunar Sea of Serenity a fortnight ago, scientific fact and fiction have become curiously interwoven. The time cannot be far distant when man himself will be setting foot on the moon, but such an undertaking still poses major problems, not least of which is the question of fuel for the return trip.

At the present time, a rocket consumes the bulk of its fuel during its breakaway from the earth. To make the return trip possible, a refuelling point or terminal will be required beyond the limits of the atmosphere. This dual purpose could be served by a space station which would also be equipped with facilities such as a space laboratory, workshops, an observatory and, of course, living accommodation for the crew.

I believe that we shall see such a station taking shape within the course of the next ten years or so, and it is this possibility which has given me the background of the new serial.

For myself, I am hoping that the serial will not be outdated by the News before it starts!

— B.D. Chapman, Into Orbit with the Space Pioneers, Radio Times, 25 September 1959[2]

Production details

The producer of Orbiter X, Charles Maxwell, aimed to make the series authentic as possible.[2] During the studio recordings, the cast wore 'space helmets' to help them to achieve a sense of realism.[2] Harry Morriss and Ian Cook created around 40 different sound effects for the series, with "as many as four or five effects sometimes being blended together to produce one particular sound".[2]

Combined Episodes

4 Episodes of approximately 90 minutes each (original episodes are approx 30 min each)

Orbiter X Episode 1

Orbiter X Episode 2

Orbiter X Episode 3

Orbiter X Episode 4

Original Episode list

No. First broadcast title
1 28 Sep 1959 The First Step to the Stars
2 5 Oct 1959 Conflict in Space
3 12 Oct 1959 The Master Plan
4 19 Oct 1959 Flight to the Moon
5 26 Oct 1959 Inside the Moon Station
6 2 Nov 1959 Breakaway
7 9 Nov 1959 Price of Survival
8 16 Nov 1959 Marooned in Space
9 23 Nov 1959 Operation Salvage
10 30 Nov 1959 Return to Woomera
11 7 Dec 1959 A Flight Against Time
12 14 Dec 1959 Building the Space Station
13 21 Dec 1959 The Net Closes
14 28 Dec 1959 The Final Round
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